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Mashatu, Kgalagadi to Caprivi overland and a Moremi mobile with Masson Safaris : 6 weeks in Southern Africa 2014


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This year we were a party of 5 – myself, @@farin, Mum (both on second safaris) and the Cousins (safari newbies) on a soft adventure safari followed by a 6 day Moremi mobile with Masson Safaris.

The highlights were:

  • 5 cheetah cubs at Mashatu
  • Leopard and baboon antics at Mashatu
  • Meeting up with old friends again – Richard at Mashatu Tent Camp, Francois and Margaret in Namibia and Ewan and Sallie Masson in Botswana
  • Owls
  • Male lion stalking in Kgalagadi, lions everywhere including the Caprivi
  • African Wildcat and honey badger in Kgalagadi
  • Brown hyena at Okaukuejo
  • Village and kraal life along the Angolan border and through the Caprivi
  • Meeting Mark and Charlie Paxton at Shamvura camp in the Caprivi – I have received Mark’s KOAR emails for 2-3 years and took the opportunity to stop by and say hello
  • Carmine bee-eaters at Mazambala Lodge
  • An impromptu visit to a Caprivi mission
  • The stunning scenery and bewitching colours of Namibia from the Kalahari to the Caprivi
  • Sable and roan in Mahango Game Reserve
  • Serval and Black Mamba in Moremi

Carmine Bee-eaters, Mazambala Lodge, Caprivi




Pride of 6, Moremi




Lion, (KTP)





African Wild Cat, KTP




Photo galleries, including accommodation for 2014 are online at https://picasaweb.google.com/Treepol

The final itinerary was:

Mashatu Tent Camp (4 nights)

Twee Riverien (3 nights)

Kalahari Farmstall (3 nights)

Anib Kalahari Lodge (1 night)

Desert Breeze, Swakopmund (2 nights)

Erongo Wilderness Lodge (1 night)

Palmwag (2 nights)

Okaukuejo (2 nights)

Halali (1 night)

Mushara Bush Camp (2 nights)

Hakusembe River Lodge (1 night)

Mazambala Lodge (2 nights)

Nunda Lodge (2 nights)

The Kraal, Maun (1 night)


Masson Safaris Mobile

1.Campsite near Second Bridge, Moremi (3 nights Hatab 6)

2.Xakanaxa Campsite (2 nights Hatab 9)

3.Mopane Tongue Campsite (1 night Hatab 14)


The Kraal, Maun (1 night)

The itinerary was designed to visit a variety of environments to maximise wildlife viewing opportunities in the varied environs of the Tuli Block, the deserts of Kgalagadi (KTP) and Etosha, the coast at Swakopmund and the Caprivi and Moremi wetlands. KTP delivered for us with lion, owls and a honey badger. We travelled from the coast to the Caprivi via Etosha to see the full gamut of Namibia’s wildlife. And what a grand drive it was for awe-inspiring scenery, colourful birds and wishlist rarities of brown hyena, sable herds and roan. Moremi delivered longed for sights of serval and a black egret hooding together with wetland scenery, mud-wrestling ele style, owls and black mamba. The final itinerary included more one night stays than I originally planned, however we sacrificed some 3 night stays to keep travel to less than 400 km most days.


Zebra, Charitsaub, Etosha




Carmine Bee-Eater with Kalahari Apple Leaf tree, Moremi




Eles at dusk, Okaukuejo, Etosha NP




Starting out

The party left from Devonport and Hobart airports on 10 August. @@farin and I were very happy to be leaving a cold 8C in Hobart, knowing that we were heading for warmer days. We met Mum and the Cousins in Melbourne and flew on to Sydney for the first night before the 14 hour flight to Joberg. There was a last minute flight change when Qantas cancelled our international flight, however this was resolved by leaving a day earlier than planned and spending an extra day in Africa (never a bad thing, shame it was in Joberg).


Due to the flight change we were able to visit the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre with an afternoon stop at the nearby Monkey Sanctuary where the highlight was the ring-tailed lemurs. I have now added Madagascar to my longlist! After a pleasant day with a taste of spotted cats and painted dogs, we returned to the Airport City Lodge for a good night's sleep before the Polokwane flight and transfer to Mashatu next day.

Edited by Treepol
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Fantastic Treepol..Im up in Burnie..Would be good to meet you oneday..

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Great start with an impressive itinerary. Looking forward to this. :)

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The safari really began when we entered Botswana by cable car having flown to Polokwane at 10:40 where we were met by Alan from Copper Sun who drove us to the border. Here’s Mum arriving at Mashatu




We will be guided by Richard, my guide from 2 previous visits - I was ever so pleased to see him drive up wearing his trademark peaked cap. Richard is a fabulous guide for Mashatu being a long-serving employee and experienced guide – I appreciate his gentle soul, humour and his outstanding knowledge of the homes and haunts of the Mashatu wildlife. Dan had met us on the RSA side and arranged for the bags to go to camp while we enjoyed a quick high tea and then got an immediate start to wildlife viewing. Rich says the birding has been excellent due to the unusually heavy rain that lasted as late as March-April this year. We see a Sabota Lark, Crested Barbet and a silhouette of a Purple Roller during the afternoon. Before too long we have notched up our first zebra, eland and impala and watched this young baboon receive a thorough grooming.








The highlight of the afternoon is watching a leopard devouring a dassie kill high in a gorge while the more fortunate dassies kept up a loud volley of alarm calls.The Cousins had been very keen to see a leopard so it was a real coup to have this distant sighting on the first day.







Green pigeons took up roosts in the trees along the mostly dry riverbed while a pied kingfisher dived in the few remaining pools. Later, a black backed jackal unsuccessfully hunted for a mouse or insect that it had heard underground. There was a lot of listening and pouncing, but no supper.


We returned to the (refurbished) Tented Camp by nightfall. Rich told us that the camp had been flooded in the deluge of 2013-14 and had been re-built with tents on raised platforms and a boardwalk to the bathroom area. Dinner was in the boma and then I had the best sleep since touching down in Africa. Before I knew it, Moses was calling the 6 am wake-up next morning.

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What a splendid itinary. Looking forward to see how you get from mashatu to KTP!

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Sounds like an awesome trip again ...... I must write Ewan and Sallie to see what they are upto. It's been awhile.....

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@@madaboutcheetah it was a fabulous trip, how could 6 weeks in Africa be anything but fabulous?


I'm sure Sallie and Ewan would be pleased to hear from you and have a catch-up.

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Mashatu....it was where Africa implanted itself firmly in my heart and mind.


Look forward to the trip report...

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Great start and an impressive list of sightings. Looking forward to more.

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A leopard on the first day! A good omen. that's a lot of camps to be transferred in 6 weeks. on hindsight, @@Treepol, did it work out well this way, or do you think spending more nights at certain camps would have been better?

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Great pictures on your picasaweb, @@Treepol. the landscape pix are very inviting! and the number of zebras at the waterhole is just amazing.

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@@SSF556, yes I can understand how you fell for Africa at Mashatu!


@@Kitsafari yes, it was a lot of camps. As I wrote we sacrificed some three night stays to keep the driving under 400 kms per day wherever possible. Overall, it worked out OK.


There were a couple of long days beween Kgalagadi and Swakop, I would have liked to have travelled further than Anib Kalahari Lodge en route to Swakopmund rather than have one short day and one rushed day. Accommodation may have been the reason these 2 days worked out the way they did. There may not have been anywhere to stay as we took some very interesting back roads the day we arrived in Swakop and I didn't see many towns or lodge signs.


In hindsight, I might have skipped Erongo and driven straight to Palmwag with 3 nights at Etendeka Mountain Camp. Palmwag was definitely a better option moneywise, but that Etendeka experience is very tempting. The drive through Damaraland was both scenic and interesting and some of the experience would have been lost if we had driven from Swakop to Palmwag in a day. As it was, we stopped for tea, photos and had a relaxing drive.


It was a long haul to Hakusembe from Etosha, however to travel from Etosha to Mazambala Lodge in a single day would have been too much so we definitely needed the single overnight.


Apart from the 3 travel days described above, everything was fine - and three days out of 6 weeks is negligable in the scheme of things. We knew there would be a lot of driving which wasn't a problem as there was always something to look at - fabulous scenery most days! We also had iPods, but I think I only used mine twice.

Edited by Treepol
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Great start for this epic itinerary. Some great photos here already -and to see an African Wildcat so clearly - great stuff. I look forward to reading this as it progresses!

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Following a light breakfast of cereal and toast the morning game drive left at 6.45 am. The first sighting was statuesque giraffe and her nursing calf. Little bee-eaters were warming up in the thin morning sun and at one time the vehicle was surrounded by a flock of noisy, scuffling guinea fowl, creating dust with their scratching and bickering.








A troupe of baboons soaked up the sun, feeding in their night tree providing entertainment until we left to find a mother and daughter cheetah team possibly interested in a hunt? But no, sleep was more important.










The morning got even better when we sighted 2 lionesses with 3 x 5 month old cubs. An impala walked into sight so we settled in to watch the developments.




I was really surprised to see that the impala kept on walking towards the crouching lioness – Rich said this was so it could be sure of what was lying in the grass, (death I thought) – in this case curiosity just might have killed the impala! Anyway, the 3 cubs sat up giving the game away, the impala snorted and ran away and the hunt was over before it began. The cubs decided that it was time for a feed and we did too, heading back to camp for brunch.






Rich investigated guinea fowl alarm calls, rousing a Giant Eagle Owl from cover. I caught a glimpse of those wonderful pink eyelids before it settled again.




I wrote up my notes at the hide where the most colourful visitor was a golden breasted bunting. A lone grey lourie startled the red-billed quelea out of a nearby tree and that was all the action before the afternoon game drive.




We found a breeding herd of elephants eating mopane, a giraffe trying to hide behind a tree, a kudu family and a flock of metallic Meve’s starlings catching the sun. Elephants are Mum’s very favourite safari animal, she never tires of watching their antics so Mashatu was an ideal place for her to indulge her interest.




The big sighting of the afternoon was a leopard with a warthog kill. The leopard is a 7 year old male known to the guides who commented that he hadn’t been seen in the area for a while. He wandered back and forth across the river bed before settling beneath the kill in the late afternoon light, while flocks of quelea drank from the river in the background.




We located the female cheetahs again – no movement there since morning, so we sat with them for a short time before sundowners and the spotlight game drive back to camp which delivered scrub hare, impala and warthog.




Monty joined us for dinner regaling us with stories from his guiding days in the Delta. Rich says these days Monty ‘drives around the office.’ The surprise dessert was delicious Malva Pudding with custard.


Next morning is cooler. The first sighting is a young hyena in the red dawn light, followed by a korhaan.






These wildebeest seemed restless, but there was no evidence of a predator so we drove on to find a leopard lazing in a dry riverbed.






Rich received a call indicating that one of the Mashatu pride males had been sighted on the opposite bank to the restless wildebeest, so we return to spend some time with him.






Further upstream a large herd of elephants is drinking and mud-bathing above a weir before moving off in the direction of the lion. I doubt the king had a relaxing morning between the lodge vehicles and then the elephants heading straight for his sunny resting place.




This determined tree squirrel continued to forage during the lion and elephant drama.




We left for tea and rusks, stopping at a vantage point from where we could see elephant, eland, zebra and giraffe. I wrote up my notes sitting on my tent deck the deck of my tent refreshed by both breeze and sun. The breeze sighs in the treetops and a few birds call from the other side of the stream bed where earlier I had disturbed a family of warthogs. This is a million miles from the world of work…


Later Mum and I sit in the hide where once again the buntings are the most colourful visitors. Flocks of quelea crowd into a tree, flying off in a cloud of wings and beaks. This happened a few times until a Sparrow Hawk showed itself, explaining the flighty behaviour.


The first stop on the afternoon game drive is at a weir where birds and serrated terrapin rest in the sun. We saw Black Stork, Egyptian Geese and Blacksmith Lapwing.








Later a genial Lilac Breasted Roller posed for photos but a drive by the hyena den only resulted in this shy adult and not the pups we had been hoping to see.






Returning to the leopard with the warthog kill from yesterday we find 2 black-backed jackal on stand-by for any fallen scraps. The leopard looks very uncomfortable with his full belly squashed against a small branch and no resting place for a back leg.






Panting heavily, he looks very hot and bothered while below in the riverbed, 2 hyena circle. Rich says that eventually he will drop the remains of the warthog and escape while the hyena fight over the carcass. Driving back to camp we stop in a riverbed for sundowners, watching quelea and baboons taking up roosts for the night. A Grey Heron has chosen a very windy spot to spend the night. Once again we found the lionesses with cubs – still feeding.






The final sighting of the day was a frog outside my tent.


The next day began with the giraffe family close to camp followed by zebra and eland.




A White Helmeted Shrike posed briefly before we found a White-backed Vulture’s nest that had originally been built by red-billed buffalo weavers. A young male elephant has been wounded in a fight – most likely by an older bull in musth that we saw following a breeding herd. The wounded ele is lurking in a riverside thicket – I glimpse blood flowing down his inside front leg and later we watch him struggle to climb out of the river bed. At one stage it looks as though he is going to topple sideways it is so difficult to haul himself up the opposite bank.




Monty has since advised that the young bull recovered, he wrote - I think it has learned its lesson now that it needs to mature to indulge in mating. We have a tea stop and then spend some time with the lion cubs before returning for brunch.




I write up my notes in the Hide with quelea flocking in once again. A warthog family stops by and the female quickly digs out a wallow.




It is still windy during the afternoon game drive, forcing these impala to take shelter.




This 2 year old female leopard is sleeping in a Mashatu tree while a black chested snake eagle struggles to balance in a tree top.




The last sighting of the day is of the lionesses with cubs – the females look as though they could be going to hunt as they haven’t fed for 3 days.


I can’t believe the last morning at Mashatu has dawned, the days have passed so quickly. After spending time with some shy eland, Rich drives to the front of an elephant herd and we watch about 35 of these huge animals pass by with hardly a sound, Mum is wrapt and she has since told me twice now that this is her favourite memory of this year's safari.




The grand finale at Mashatu is a female cheetah staging a debut with 5 cubs – not even the guides have seen these cute cubs that look like honey badgers with their grey ruff. They seem to be running from the vehicle, but when Rich stops we see that they are chasing guinea fowl and are ignoring the female’s imploring chirp to return to Mama.










We have our final brunch (mmmm, Mashatu chicken pie) and then Rich drives us to Pont Drift - we see kudu, warthog, giraffe, eles and impala along the way.


My previous visits to Mashatu have both been in mid-July when the morning temperatures were icy and the daytime temperature barely grazed 16C. This year, in mid-August I am amazed at how much warmer the temperature is and begin to wonder why I bought all those winter thermals – oh well, I’ll probably need them in Kgalagadi. The August evenings were mild, just light shirt sleeves at dinner while the morning game drives were cool not chilly – we almost didn’t need those comforting hot water bottles. The vegetation is also different with the mopane showing a distinct gold rather than green hue.


We are a bit dejected back in the Joberg hotel and looking forward to the next day’s flight to Upington and seeing Francois again – he will drive us for the next 23 days from Kgalagadi to Maun.

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@@Treepol I think you were lucky with the weather, by the 30th August, it was freezing. Guides had blankets over their legs with hats and gloves....never seen a guide use a blanket before!!

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Good sighting of all the large predators except wil dogs, big bull elands, great birding and you're not even halfway through!
Excellent pics of all also, looking forward to more! :)

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Mashatu sounds and looks wonderful. Do you know the name of the tree that the baboons were in? We were told it is Nyala, but don't think this can be right.

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@@Tdgraves shame about the cold spell that hit at the end of August, not great for game viewing as the animals tend to go to ground.


I did see a Mashatu guide wearing a blanket! Rich usually rugs up in coat, gloves and beanie and runs the heater flat out in the front. One of my canny friends sat in the front the whole trip a couple of yars ago and it wasn't until we left that she 'fessed up about the heater.


Who was your guide and what were the memorable sightings from your trip?


@@Big_Dog thank you for the encouragement.

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@@Seniortraveller I'm afraid I don't know the name of the baboon tree - if I had to guess, I'd say it was a Mashatu tree.


Have you been to Mashatu and was it a camp guide who told you Nyala tree?

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It was at Wild at Tuli this July. There was one that branched over our tent and another on the river bank. We had an interesting view of monkeys from our bathroom! Monkeys and Impala seemed to enjoy eating the berries/fruit. It could be that I misheard our guide when he told us the name.

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Just did a search on the Internet. The Mashatu tree is also known as the Nyala berry tree. We certainly enjoyed watching the impala coming every morning, to eat the berries. Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.

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@@Tdgraves shame about the cold spell that hit at the end of August, not great for game viewing as the animals tend to go to ground.


I did see a Mashatu guide wearing a blanket! Rich usually rugs up in coat, gloves and beanie and runs the heater flat out in the front. One of my canny friends sat in the front the whole trip a couple of yars ago and it wasn't until we left that she 'fessed up about the heater.


Who was your guide and what were the memorable sightings from your trip?.

Richard and the whole thing was memorable- so much so that we had an acute memory card issue! Hence the delay in the TR. We will definitely go back.....

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Great read so far. I'm really glad the elephant recovered.

Wildcat, honey badger, and serval...that must be satisfying! :)

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@@Tdgraves hope that memory card issue gets sorted soon


@@Marks thanks for reading along


@@Seniortraveller, I've never heard the Mashatu tree called Nyala Berry, thanks for the info


@@Towlersonsafari here is the detail on the trip to Mashatu to Kgalagadi




Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi delivered some superb game-viewing this year. My first trip was in 2011 with Masson Safaris and I had always intended to re-visit and this year provided an ideal opportunity.


The flight to Upington took around 90 minutes. I enjoyed the flight over the dry Northern Cape and was surprised by the contrast generated by the Orange River from desert to well irrigated farms and a very green Upington. This is South Africa’s longest river rising in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho and flowing into the Atlantic. Francois is waiting in the Arrivals lounge and after loading the bags we make a quick getaway, heading straight to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) where we had time for a quick game drive before the gates closed for the evening.


Everyone was surprised when an electrical storm rolled in over the park, and we even experienced a few drops of rain.




However, this did not dampen our enthusiasm and we noted wildebeest, oryx, pale chanting goshawk and a nesting pair of secretary birds with a single chick.




We ate dinner in the camp restaurant the first night (not recommended) and turned in early for a 6 am start next day. Francois is our cook for these 3 days and we start early with muesli, yoghurt, bacon and eggs and then hit the road. The first sighting is a flock of sub-adult ostrich that seems all necks and legs and soon after a secretary bird hunts close to the road.






We saw cars stopped and drove over to discover a mating pair of lions (the first of several sightings) whilst nearby a martial eagle surveyed events from a high tree.






We heard another lion calling in the distance and aimed to locate him further up the road. This lone oryx calf looks very vulnerable, having wandered away from the others and with no protective mother in sight. The lions are only a few hundred metres away.




This is the lion that was calling earlier, he really put on a show for us scent-marking and roaring before posing for the classic lion on dune shot.








After this exceptional lion viewing, @@farin was especially happy to see meerkats foraging near the road. The sentry kept a close eye on us.




Nearby, a large colony of baby ground squirrels plays in the sun, this little one was wringing its paws.




Next, our attention was grabbed by a springbok family running down a riverbed, some of the adults began to pronk as they disappeared from view. What startled them remains a mystery. We were still speculating about this when a large (leopard?) tortoise crawled out of the high grass.




A fellow traveller alerts us to an African Wildcat resting in a tree about a kilometre down the road so we set off in search of the feline, eyes sweeping backwards and forwards until we spot the uber relaxed cat.




Next, Francois spots a male lion with a very full belly snoozing in the shade – this is an excellent morning for cats! A black-chested snake eagle perches in a nearby dead tree.




Returning to camp, we pass the lone male lion in the same place where he was performing this morning, the mating pair have moved closer to the road while the meerkats catch the late sun.






An adult secretary bird is at the nest providing company and protection for the chick. I write up my notes at the table on the terrace of my chalet. Campers are setting up below and many birds stop by – Scaly-feathered and Red-headed finches, Cape Sparrows, Namaqua and Laughing Doves, Sociable weavers and Kalahari scrub-robins.






Braai smoke drifts over the restcamp. Soon its time to wander over to Francois’ chalet for dinner before a peaceful night and early start next day.


The morning is much cooler and overcast than yesterday and we see little for the first few kilometres – the animals are hugging the dune tops for warmth. Eventually, springboks, and then the mating pair of lions (who are also heading over the dune) show themselves.








A Cape Fox is curled up asleep close by and further on the solo male lion has also opted for a dune top.




At Kij Kij the pride of lions that were resting high on a dune yesterday are slowly walking down the riverbed, the cubs tumbling alongside the adults before all disappear over the dunes.








We take the road to Killiekrankie and see pygmy falcon and more oryx.




A group of young ostrich amble across the road. Suddenly, a honey badger appears, foraging in the red sand and trotting like a dog with its head down and tail up.






Auchterlonie is the next tea stop where a busy Kalahari robin is pecking around the picnic tables. Further down the road a flock of Namaqua Sandgrouse are feeding and another pygmy falcon perches over the road. A solitary Black Khoraan pecks along the road before we see a second Secretary bird nest in a treetop. @@farin did us all proud with the last sighting of the morning - a prize spot of a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls perched low in a roadside tree.




We leave camp at 4 pm for a short game drive (huh!) that begins with a Secretary bird striding alongside the vehicle. Next we see a lone male lion – possibly the same one that was stretched out in the shade yesterday.






Its hard to see what he’s doing, but it does look like he’s eating grass before criss-crossing the road, scent-marking as he goes. He is mildly interested in a herd of red hartebeest, however we have spent so much time with this lion that it’s a Ferrari safari back to the gate with a quick stop to check on some steenbok settling in for the night.


Next morning we leave Twee Riverien at 7.30 after completing RSA border formalities and take the road to Mata Mata. A nursing steenbok is the first sight of the day




followed by an aged male lion in poor condition – I’m afraid these are his last days. He is very thin and has a nasty wound to a rear leg, (hyena?) and several porcupine quills embedded in his chest.






Further on are the largest herds of wildebeest and springbok since arriving in KTP.




A pair of Swallow-tailed bee-eaters huddles together on this sunny yet chilly morning.






Suddenly, a worrying sound is heard form a rear wheel and Francois has to stop and cut a metal plate free from a rear wheel. This road is very corrugated, yet this homemade grader does a reasonable job of filling the gaps for the short term at least.




We stop at the designated picnic spot for brunch, where a Cape Crow keeps a close eye on the food, making excited gurgly water calls. Cape Sparrows, Kalahari Robins and a Chestnut Vented Tit Babbler hop around hoping for crumbs.




The first giraffe are spotted after lunch together with a Booted Eagle and a pair of Lilac Breasted Rollers.






Near Dalkeith a herd of oryx with calves create a dust as they move slowly down the dry riverbed. A sleeping cheetah on a dune is our first spotted cat sighting in KTP, at one stage it lifted its head and gazed at a line of wildebeest plodding by. Once the wildebeest see the cheetah, they accelerate to disappear in a cloud of dust.








Once we reach Mata Mata we have to complete immigration forms and drive 14 km to the Kalahari Farmstall, our home for the next 3 nights. We needed 5 chalets for the party and could not get accommodation at Mata Mata even though we booked in September 2013 for August 2014. The Kalahari Farmstall was a real find, with modern, comfortable accommodation, fresh home cooked food, friendly staff and many opportunities to talk to Marika, the owner, who spent time with guests in the restaurant and lounge areas each day.

Edited by Treepol
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I have just read to the end of the Mashatu section -very engaging writing and lots of beautiful pictures.

In particular the leopard with the sun in its eyes - and the baby cheetah are so cute!

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